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Did you know that North Carolina is the 17th most obese state in the nation? And did you know that reducing body weight by just 5 percent can help decrease high blood pressure, high cholesterol and risk for diabetes? If you’re a company like BCBSNC, that is committed to helping North Carolinians live healthier lives, you take this information to heart and then take action. That’s exactly what our company has done with “5 Ton Challenges” in 2012 and 2013.

It began for us in 2012, when our CEO, Brad Wilson, challenged our employees to lose 5 Tons. Losing 10,000 pounds was a huge challenge — but it was one that Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina employees tackled head-on.

Over the course of nine months, participants in the 2012 5 Ton Challenge received weekly emails with weight loss tips, had access to online forums for motivation and support, were given the opportunity to attend regular events like our healthy “Iron Chef” competition and “Tasty Breakfast” contest, and completed monthly weigh-ins to track their progress.

We even recruited a group of 12 employees selected to be champions of the program, dubbed the Weight Warriors. We put them through boot camp, had them meet with our nutritionist, offered seminars to teach healthy habits, and provided training with our onsite fitness coach throughout the program. The Weight Warriors blogged about their experience, and the rest of the company followed their journey all along the way, looking for inspiration and support.

Not only did we meet our goal in 2012, we crushed it! Our employees lost 11,301 pounds in nine months. We also promised to donate $1 for every pound lost up to $10,000 to Playworks, a national nonprofit providing safe, healthy and inclusive play and physical activity to schools during the school day. Our success was that much sweeter by allowing us to give back to our community to help continue spreading the message about health and fight against obesity.

2013: The 5 Ton Challenge 2.0

With the widespread success of our first 5 Ton Challenge, we couldn’t pass up the chance to do it again. So in 2013 we asked our employees to rise to the challenge of losing another 10,000 pounds.

This time around, we competed in teams by company division to see who could lose the most weight in six months. We increased our number of Weight Warriors to 35, and grouped them in teams of five to be the champions for each division. We still offered weekly emails with weight loss tips and hosted regular events including a Pinterest recipe contest, a walk during National Walk at Lunch Day, and a 5 Ton Field Day event to get our employees moving.

This time we lost 8,317 pounds. Not quite to our goal, but over the course of two years, we still lost a jaw dropping 19,618 pounds–and we feel fantastic about every pound lost and every step taken. We also saw our 35 Weight Warriors achieve amazing results, losing a total of 687.1 pounds with an average body weight loss at 8.5 percent. The average waist line decreased by 6 inches, losing 149.25 inches overall, and their group averaged a decrease of 3 points in body mass index (BMI).

This time we donated $8,317 to Bridge II Sports, a nonprofit that provides opportunities for children and adults who are physically challenged have a chance to play sports and be physically active.

The 5 Ton Challenge has allowed us to take control of our health, continue to build our culture of wellness, and give back to our community. It’s been an opportunity for our employees to support one another, forge friendships, take steps toward improving their health, and serve as great examples for their friends and families.

Feeling inspired now? 

As Brad Wilson has told to us time and again, the wonderful thing about this program is that it can really be replicated anywhere. All you really need to do is accept the challenge to take control of your health and begin making a change. There are multiple places where a challenge like this could succeed: At a school among the teachers and staff, at a large or small business, though a house of worship, or you could even host a neighborhood challenge. Really, the possibilities are endless.

Here are some guidelines you could use to create your own weight-loss challenge:

  • Find a group of people who are ready to make a health change and begin tackling weight management.
  • Identify one person or a committee of people to host and facilitate the challenge.
  • Set a goal for your group. Ours was 10,000 pounds in a six- to nine-month time frame, but depending on your population pick a number that’s right for you!
  • Send out a weekly email with weight loss tips and share stories with each other about your journey. What has been working well for you? Have you identified any barriers that you need help with? Build a community to support and motivate each other. There are so many resources you can use to find healthy weight loss tips including health blogs, Weight WatchersSpark People, MyPlate and more. This challenge isn’t a diet, it’s about losing weight in a healthy, sustainable way through good nutrition combined with physical activity.
  • Do a monthly weigh-in and have participants submit their weight via email to the challenge facilitator or submit via a platform like Survey Monkey.
  • If you want to do more, you could organize a few events, like a group walk, or healthy potluck. Even though you’re working on making lifestyle changes, it should be fun too!
  • At the end of the challenge, share your results and celebrate, but remember, it’s about making a lifestyle change. It’s not just to lose weight, but also to maintain the progress you’ve made for the long haul!

If you want to learn more about the 5 Ton Challenge and hear our Weight Warriors’ weight loss stories, visit our 5 Ton Challenge website. And if you do your own challenge, let us know how it goes.

About Allison Bonner

Allison Bonner works in Community Relations at BCBSNC where she coordinates and oversees community partnerships and employee volunteer opportunities. She’s deeply passionate about giving back to the community and changing the world one small step at a time.